It would appear that perseverance can pay off when it comes to the federal government. After more than two years of work, Netflix has managed to get a little clause in the Video Privacy Protection Act changed, allowing them to allow you to share your own rental history with your friends. Currently the VPPA disallows any rental service from sharing your rental history without your specific WRITTEN consent.
Obviously Netflix, and other streaming services, are interested in allowing you to advertise for them... I mean share your rental history... on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Myspace. The altered bill will allow just that. First, the written consent has been altered, allowing an individual to provide consent over the Internet - no more writing a letter. Second, the consent can be granted for a period of time, instead of on a one-to-one basis. Clearly there are provisions for revoking permission, individually or bulk, but the standard permission will expire every two years.
The original law, passed in 1998, is an unusual situation in US law. It is one of the most thorough privacy laws ever passed, which accounts for the reason Netflix had so much trouble getting around it. The reason for its intensity is legendary and extremely weird. Judge Robert Bork was going through the process of Senate confirmations to join the Supreme Court, when a reporter retrieved and published the judge's rental history.
Judge Bork was not confirmed, but not likely because of his rental history. It was fairly normal for the time, with Alfred Hitchcock movies seeming to be his favorites. What it did, however, was scare the Senate enough to pass a sweeping law to protect mostly themselves. What the law, and the Senate, never expected was the Internet, at least in the state it is today. How could a group of people who are so disconnected from reality predict something no one else could see, either, right? Well, at least they are capable of learning.
So, will you be attaching your Netflix to your Facebook? Let us know in the comments.